This week, having skipped it last week…we are reviewing Too Close To the Sun, another exclusive track from the Best Buy version of All You Need Is Now.
Musicality/Instrumentation: Hello electronica. This song seems to be the heaviest in various electronica on the album, and I think even a good deal of Roger’s drums are done on electronic toms – nothing really new to the band, but it’s a standout on the song. (yes, that’s a good thing. His work is nothing short of excellent on this one) If I’m wrong on that, well…it wouldn’t be the first time. 🙂 I really began to get concerned in the instrumentation when, about 30 seconds in – I heard the familiar chords from Save A Prayer (listen closely, they are there – they aren’t the familiar melody, but the notes are there!), and my concern was only that they were trying a do-over here (which seems to be the case in many ways on this album as a whole), and that I’d never hear bass or guitar. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but they are very, very buried, deep in the melody that Nick is completely driving on this song. I can’t really fault the band for that – but I really do believe one major fault of this band is continuously burying their guitar and bass. It has always driven me slightly crazy, and even on this album, this song included, they flirt dangerously with those old habits. That isn’t to say the instrumentation is horrible, it is not. The melody is clear, the guitar plays a strong supporting role after it really gets going, but I still feel the bass could have been stronger. Roger’s drums are strong – where’s the bass? I can “feel” it, but I think we should be able to hear it just a bit more. There are so many good things about this song, musically speaking – it’s really impressive in it’s own right. I just wish they’d taken more care with John’s rhythm so that the song didn’t lean so heavily towards the electronics. They need that balance. Then, lo and behold – about 2/3 of the way through the song – Dom comes out to play. I have to admit here that if I didn’t know better, I would swear Andy Taylor came back to the band on this one. Those riffs are so similar to what I know from Andy, and while I know Dom is an excellent guitarist in his own right, if I close my eyes and daydream a bit, I can almost see Andy playing. (those who say Warren is best can agree to disagree with me, that’s fine – I love Dom’s playing and will continue to sing his praises well after his stint in Duran Duran is over and done) It starts as a sort of game of tag between Nick and Dom, and then Dom completely takes over, which is a solid blessing for this tune. He saves the song from being an overly contrived, purely plastic and synthetic song. The band is better than just that, and they prove it on this one.
Vocals: Here is where the song completely and flatly loses it for me. It is a HUGE shame because this song had all the makings of being one of the best on the album, musically speaking. There is absolutely no reason to have this song sound like a demo, yet due to the vocals, that’s what it sounds like. While Early Summer Nerves has that lazy, late night feel to it – this song has all the energy of a nightclub going for it, yet nearly as soon as the song begins – the whining sound to Simon’s voice completely skewers it. He sounds very much as though he’d been gargling with nails, or his voice was completely fried after a good solid 3 weeks singing every night. I hear nothing but strain, a definite “thinness” to the notes he’s singing (as opposed to sounding full and authoritative), lack of vocal control, and quite frankly a complete lack of intonation. (that means Simon was out of tune in much of the song, probably due to the lack of control) There was no reason for it, although I will concede that perhaps he’s going for some sort of existentialistic type of mood. It doesn’t help the song, and I don’t feel that it really does much to create the mood, and it’s not really sounding experimental the way that songs sounded on Medazzaland, although he’s trying to sing it that way. It’s not impressive and I’m disappointed they let it go like this. Simon is a MUCH better singer than this, which is why I have zero trouble letting him have it on this one. He knows better, and he can tell me it’s all about artistic license all he wants, I’d wholeheartedly agree if it actually worked for the song, but it doesn’t. Especially not when you have this strong of a song musically. Disappointing.
Lyrics: I have to be honest, I have such a hard time listening to this song due to the singing that I am distracted when it comes to the lyrics. In some ways, I’d swear he was making up a lot of the words on the spot since he seems to be dragging out the verses, but that’s probably not the case. Who knows. It seems as though he had a good solid chorus going for it, but each stanza of verse seems to be where he’s ad libbing. I love the chorus: “Still looking out for something, some escape from, the antique dark of nothing new, automatic sky” What the hell does that mean?? I have no idea. I just like it! I like the escape part, as if he’s trying to convey what it’s like to take drugs and be risking it all to chase that high. It does relate to my life pretty darn well (not the drugs part. LOL), I’m a mom, my day to day excitement doesn’t really change much, and sometimes I just want to break the hell out of the proverbial cage I’m in and see something new. Hello my trip to the UK! Interestingly enough, that’s kind of how I feel about the band in general. It’s my escape and I keep going to shows because for me, it IS my drug. I’m chasing after that high I feel. The worst shows are when I come away not feeling it, and then I crave more. Who am I kidding – I *always* crave more, but I think that if you’re the type of fan I am, you get my point.
Production: Who let Nick out of his cage?!? 😀 I can definitely sense the Nick Rhodes touch of production on this song – and I don’t mean to pick on him here. Really, I don’t. The fact is, Nick and Matthew Hager did a good job with it. The synths do play a lead role, but I have to say – Dom’s guitar is very audible and plays a very smart game. It reminds me very much of any song on the first two albums – MUSICALLY. I think the only drawback is that they left the bass on the cutting room floor, and that’s a shame. The song needs more of it to provide a good balance.
Overall: This is the one that “got away” on this album. Instrumentation-wise, this song scores a solid 5 cocktails for me because it’s beautiful. It’s as electronic as any Duran Duran song should be, and yet it’s got a good solid infrastructure to it so that it doesn’t sound plastic. No other band out there is able to do what Duran Duran has done for the past 30 some years musically, and this song is proof of that in every way. It should have been a masterpiece for them. That said, vocally they couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. I don’t think I even realized how fantastic the song is musically until today when I’ve sat and listened to it a good 10 times for this review, because the vocals are so distracting. Like I’ve said, Simon is better than this. A million times over. (wow I feel like I’m reviewing Red Carpet Massacre all over again!) To be fair though, I really hated this song until today. I was dreading the review because I knew it would be ghastly, and I never enjoy that. That said, I gave it some solid listening time this morning, and I found plenty to like on the song. The fact that no, it’s not where I think it should be from Simon, hurts it…but it doesn’t completely destroy it for me. And, on an album where there are 15 tracks, to have one song off kilter for a reviewer who openly admits that A. She’s biased, and B. She’s not an expert except in her own mind…..well, that can’t be all bad.
Musicality/Instrumentation: I have to agree a lot with Rhonda on this one. Initially, the song excites me. Roger’s drums immediately draw me and lead me to expect a solid song. Then, there is that continuous loop of sound from Nick’s keyboards that actually remind me of Planet Earth. Unfortunately, the comparison really stops there as Nick adds another layer and the vocals begin. As soon as Simon starts singing, I start to wonder why John is so soft and where the guitar is. John is there but barely. Those instruments, particularly the guitar, don’t stand out at all to me until about 3 minutes into the song with a sort of answer and call section with the keyboards, which is very classic Duran. Yet, something about it feels forced like this was an after thought. It just doesn’t feel as natural as I think it should. Roger’s drums continue to impress me even as I find myself wishing that even they were louder and more noticeable.
Vocals: Oh boy. Why? Why did they decide to go this route with the vocals? Simon doesn’t really sound like himself. Rhonda mentioned that it felt like a demo, vocally, and I could see that. To me, the vocals seem unnatural. Why have Simon sing like he was strained? Did they want him to sound like his vocal cords were damaged like they were too close to the sun? The song certainly is not one that I would ever play to anyone to prove that Simon is a solid vocalist, that’s for sure. In fact, this song makes me think about a little disagreement I had with a friend of a friend on facebook about Simon’s singing (I blogged about it: Duranie Smackdown). I defended him (and probably always will) and stated that I thought he was quality. This person kept arguing with him about how out of tune he is and that anyone could see that. In this case, the person would have a point and I hate that!!
Lyrics: The only lyric that ever caught my attention with this track was the line about being “too close to the sun”. That isn’t good. That isn’t solid Duran Duran. Luckily, they already have the lyrics posted on dd.com. Clearly, the lyrics are reflecting some sort of drug trip, right? The references to an “escape” and to the “mighty high” as well as “are you flying” made me make that conclusion. This is lame. Too obvious even though the assumed topic of drugs was never mentioned. Interestingly enough, John had a song called “The Other Side of the Sun” on his solo album, Techno for Two. Now, this song didn’t have many lyrics at all but John’s solo work always reminded me that he was battling his addiction. While these songs are not similar, I still get annoyed when I think that Duran isn’t being original in their topics or how they handle their topics.
Production: Like Early Summer Nerves, I had to wonder who thought it was a good idea to make the keyboards so prominent. Yes, I know that the answer is Nick. Clearly. I think this is a mistake. While I think the keyboards are decent for this song, I think Roger’s drums need more attention. Then, there is the bass and guitar. They are barely noticeable and that is a problem. I have always felt that the best Duran is when ALL instruments are clear and obvious. While one instrument might have the spotlight for a few seconds, the others will jump back in the spotlight. This song has that chance with fabulous drums and a clear spotlight on the guitar, at one point. Yet, this chance is not taken.
Overall: This song is very much like Early Summer Nerves for me. It has many things going for it but fails to live up to its potential. The production detracts from the positive musicality and the vocals really impact it negatively. The topic seems unoriginal despite a couple of neat phrases.